Op 17 december 2004 werd Ray Wilson 70 jaar. Bijgaand een prachtig artikel uit de Yorkshire Post, gereproduceerd van www.shirebrooktown.co.uk:

The day modest Ray just can't forget
By John Woodcock, 17th December 2004

The oldest member of England's World Cup-winning team of 1966 reaches a milestone today– his 70th birthday. Ray Wilson stepped from the shadows to talk to John Woodcock about his career and life since that famous day. Ray Wilson is 70 today. Who? If people have to ask, he's not insulted. Anonymity suits him fine. The irony is that for such a self-effacing man, a loner by his own definition, he is captured forever in a defining image of the nation in the 20th century. He is the one on the right, helping to support Bobby Moore as the England captain holds aloft the World Cup that summer's day in 1966. Had Wilson had his way he wouldn't have appeared in the photograph, and hence also be cast in bronze in a 750,000 statue based on it, which was unveiled in London last year. "The only reason I'm in the picture is that nearly all the other players were celebrating all over the pitch and the cameramen needed someone to help lift up Bobby. I was the nearest otherwise I wouldn't have been there, believe me." At times Wilson has wondered if he was on the field at all. There has been a tendency to air-brush him out of history.Several members of the triumphant team were honoured long ago, but he was one of five who had to wait 34 years for their MBEs.
A few months ago, during yet another re-run of their achievement, a TV programme featured the players, one by one. "Geoff Hurst, Nobby Stiles, Bobby and Jack Charlton, Gordon Banks... after 10 profiles I was waiting to see myself bringing up the rear. But nothing. They ignored me, as if we hadn't had 11 players that day. "It made me smile, but being out of the limelight suits me. Usually I manage to hide behind somebody. That's why I live in a place like this." "This" is an isolated whitewashed farmhouse dating from "1700-some" and reached by a rutted track. It's set among more than 15 acres of steep fields and dry-stone walls in a glorious valley between Huddersfield and Halifax. Wilson has been there nearly 40 years, and the copse he planted is now a paradise for wildlife. This year's Christmas tree is growing just beyond the kitchen door. 
Life wasn't always so good to the miner's son who grew up in Shirebrook, north Derbyshire. He left school without qualifications and was an apprentice wagon-repairer, and doing night-shifts as a locomotive cleaner, when a scout saw him playing football. Wilson had been earning 11-a-week, which became 5 when he signed for Huddersfield Town. "A great career move, eh. Actually it was – a massive chance for me. Soccer changed my life." Not immediately. His new occupation was disrupted by National Service and he served with the Royal Artillery in Egypt shortly before the Suez crisis in 1956. Also, in those days not everyone regarded football as a glamorous profession. Wilson recalls how, in keeping with social courtesies of the time, he asked a miner if he could court his daughter. "'Aye', he told me, 'if thar gets a proper job first'. Can you imagine David Beckham or Wayne Rooney understanding that?" With their millions and the distractions of celebrity, how can they possibly grasp what it meant to do the same job 40 and more years ago? Wilson is as equally bemused by the lifestyles of today's stars, in part because he never lost touch with the real world. He and his colleagues were playing at the highest level for 17-a-week before the maximum wage was abolished. When a strike was threatened, he was planning to deliver sacks of coal to support his wife and two young sons – just as he'd worked in his father-in-law's undertaking business during the summer when a footballer's weekly wage was cut to 12. Even after being transferred to Everton he never earned more than 50-a-week as a club player. 
Ask him how feels about the game's excesses today and his age and broad experiences are clues to his philosophy.There's no resentment, just graciousness, relief and gratitude that things have worked out for him. When a knee injury finally ended his playing days in his 30s he became a funeral director full-time, and there's nothing quite like being close to death for maintaining a sense of perspective. "This is no bull – I'm not bitter or jealous about anything. Cruel things they are. They can kill you. "I don't blame today's lads for grasping the opportunities that come their way. If someone offers you thousands to do something, you'd be daft not to take it. It's the celebrity pressures that go with football now that I couldn't cope with. Absolutely staggering. These guys are more like film stars. "The situation is so far removed from what I knew, how do I begin to make sense of what's happening. And where does all the money in football come from, and will there always be someone to keep paying it? "On the other hand the game has improved, just like everything progresses, and to be honest for England players in my day it was easier. When we played smaller countries we were expected to wallop them, and we usually did. Today it seems there aren't any easy games. "People ask me if I was a better player than so-and-so now, and it's impossible to compare. You did your best to be a serious player in your own era, and you can't judge beyond that. There were times when I worried. I'd started out on the left-wing, became a left-half, then left back, and I thought my next move would be 'left out'. He usually wasn't, as the statistics testify – 63 England caps, 265 appearances for Huddersfield, 115 for Everton, 25 for Oldham and two with Bradford City – and winning the World Cup was the pinnacle. Wilson says it has probably meant more to him in the years since. "At the time it was your job, and you went out and did it.
I doubt if I would have made it onto the pitch if I'd appreciated just what was at stake, how much it was still going to mean to people and the country so long afterwards." He's tremendously proud to have been involved, but not sentimental. He is among those in the team who have since sold their winners' medals. His fetched 80,750 two years ago, of which he received about 68,000 after the sale commission was deducted. He saw it as a contribution to the pension that football didn't provide in his day. "It was great to win the medal, but what good was it doing us in a bank vault? The family meant more to me." Wilson is happy to attend World Cup reunions, but prefers to be in the shadows. As he says: "I can't do the celebrity stuff or after-dinner speaking. I'd die if I had to." The get-togethers he enjoys most, you feel, involve those he shared digs with in Wakefield Road, Huddersfield, when they were apprentices with Town.The last do was a couple of weeks ago. They met up, with their wives, in a pub – Ray, Gordon Lowe, Jack Connor, Les Massie and one Denis Law. Ray is long retired, has lost most of his hair, and he walks with a slight limp, the legacy of that knee injury. But in one respect he's hardly changed at 70. Thanks to what he calls "serious" walking, be it the Pennine Way or in Australia, he still weighs almost exactly what he did half a century ago, when he was practising those precision passes. "Yeh, still between 10st 5lb and 10-7. When I reflect on it, life's been absolutely gorgeous for me."

John Woodcock


Ray Wilson Pictured with Shirebrook Town
Chairman Steve Brown

Many thanks to John Woodcock at the Yorkshire Post for allowing me to reproduce his article on www.shirebrooktown.co.uk
You can visit the Yorkshire Post Today Website at http://www.yorkshiretoday.co.uk/